How Arabic is Like Parseltongue

I seriously cannot believe this never occurred to me before. I mean, I’ve been annoyed that there seem to be no language classes at Hogwarts–not only do students there not even learn the English they need to hold down a job, but they don’t even consider the importance of learning foreign languages so they can travel the world acquiring useful spells and potion recipes–but I didn’t realize until today that Parseltongue in the Harry Potter universe is very similar to Arabic here.

Parseltongue is the language of snakes, and the wizarding world considers it a sign of a dark wizard. At first I thought maybe Parseltongue is only the language that snakes use to speak to humans, not to other snakes. But at one point Harry overhears a snake talking to himself.

When Harry speaks to a snake in Parseltongue in front of his classmates, they assume on the face of it that he was telling the snake to attack. This reminds me so much of the “joke” answers I keep seeing on Yahoo Answers, that go something like this:

Question: How do I say, “I love you, mom” in Arabic?

Answer from some ass: “Blow urself up ur virgins r waiting.”

Possibly because Parseltongue can only be learned with great difficulty, Harry conveniently receives the ability from his early encounter with Lord Voldemort. It would make logical sense for Parseltongue to be difficult for a native English-speaker to learn, since only a witch with patience and determination would stick with studying it until reaching fluency.

Why on earth should we assume the entire snake species is up to no good, though? The issue is not addressed.

هل انت بخير يا اخي؟ الحمدلله بخير و انت؟

هل انت بخير يا اخي؟ الحمدلله بخير و انت؟


Filed under animals, arab, arabian, arabic, arabist, beasts, language, movies and shows

8 responses to “How Arabic is Like Parseltongue

  1. Pingback: Links for 06.28.09 | The Arabist

  2. Love it. While living in Syria, I often thought that there were many similarities b/w the name of Hafez al-Asad and Voldemort; once I sat around with people discussing Hafez who put a photo of him up on the computer so they could point and refer to him without mention the moniker of He Who Must Not Be Named.

  3. Tell me more. I don’t know much about Syria. Were you not allowed to talk about the president?

  4. Anon

    To clarify some of the arguments in your post, Hogwarts does not teach the rudimentary subjects, such as English and basic maths, because these are subjects that students are supposed to have mastered prior to attending. In addition, foreign language acquisition is not necessarily important for wizards who can use translation charms when they apparate, portkey, or fly from country to country. Last, snakes are not the reason that the language of the snakes has such bad connotations, but because parstletonge is associated with Salazar Slytherin and other dark wizards in wizarding history who performed dark magic and were all-around just not very nice people.
    Thank you for the post. Parstletonge, however made-up it is, does not hold a candle to the beautiful language of Arabic.

  5. Anon, that last bit is kind of my point. The wizarding world thinks of snakes as evil because Salazar Slytherin was evil and spoke to snakes. It’s not fair! But as far as I can tell, J.K. meant that snakes are evil.
    Do you have a cite for those translation charms? I don’t remember ever reading about them. It certainly is a convenient shortcut, just like a Babel fish.

  6. Pingback: Judge Rules Arabic Flashcards Too Dangerous to Fly | Anonymous Arabist وين الناس

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s